Welcome to the online home of Healing Stories: Picture Books for the Big and Small Changes in a Child's Life. Here you'll find information about Healing Stories, along with unique resources to support you in using picture books to help children through the challenges they face, from the everyday to major trauma.

Have you ever wished that you could find just the right book for a child? Maybe a child in your life is anticipating a big change, such as having a new brother or sister, starting school for the first time, or moving to a new house. Maybe something difficult and painful has happened, such as a divorce, a serious illness, or a death. Or maybe you just know a child who is fearful at bedtime, or is a fussy eater, or has a bad day occasionally. It may have occurred to you that sharing a story could help the child in your life manage the situation that she or he is going through.

Why a story? A healing story is a comforting experience. As a child, it’s a comfort to know that other kids have gone through what you’re going through - whether it’s something as ordinary as starting school for the first time, or something as traumatic as a natural disaster. It’s a comfort to know that other children have had the feelings you’re having, and that there are ways to solve the problem or to get through the situation. Most of all, it’s a comfort to share this experience by reading with an adult who cares deeply about you. And when you’ve read this healing story with your parent or another caring adult enough, the book itself - and ultimately, the story (in the absence of a physical book) - becomes a comfort. But, as a parent or other concerned adult, how will you find this healing story to share with your child?

Healing Stories puts at your fingertips an annotated listing of more than 500 picture books that was prepared just for this purpose. Each story or nonfiction picture book has been carefully selected by a psychologist who works extensively with children. Each chapter includes summaries of picture books relevant to a specific concern that children may have, empowering you to select the books that best match the child and the situation you’re concerned about. Healing Stories also includes a helpful introduction that discusses ways to use books with children who are experiencing life changes or stress.

Below you'll find reviews of picture books that aren't included in Healing Stories, and can be valuable sources of healing for children.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Real Winner by Charise Neugebauer

Illustrated by Barbara Nascimbeni. 28 p., North-South, 2000. When everything is a competition, it's easy to forget kindness - and it isn't even fun. Such is the case for Rocky, a raccoon who has no friends. Humphrey, an endlessly kind, patient hippopotamus, believes that this is because "Rocky turned everything into a contest, and if he didn't win, he whined and cried." Indeed, when Humphrey agrees to let Rocky come fishing with him, Rocky immediately makes the first part of their journey into a race. This happens over and over again, and the refrains quickly become familiar to readers. When Humphrey is ahead, Rocky says, "It's not fair!" But soon, Humphrey sees an animal that needs help - a bird that has fallen from its nest, a duck who has lost its family, a frog trapped inside a bucket. Each time, Humphrey stops to help these creatures gently, and forgets about the race, and Rocky shouts, "I won! I won! wait till I tell my mom!" Eventually, Rocky becomes panicky about winning the fish-catching contest that he's proposed, before it gets dark and they have to go home. Humphrey explains that it isn't possible to fish fast, and tells Rocky to relax and enjoy the process. When Rocky can do this, he catches the first fish, and wins the contest. But surprisingly, he isn't happy or excited. He just feels compassion for the struggling little fish. And just as he has seen Humphrey do with the other creatures, he sets the fish free. He has learned that kindness and being a friend are more important than winning. And happily, his mother is very proud of him! With its vividly colored illustrations, outlined in black, this story helps children see a happy alternative to competitiveness. Ages 4-9

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Good Night for Freedom by Barbara Olenyik Morrow

Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins. 32 p., Holiday, 2004. Sometimes, standing up for what's right means disobeying your parents and the law. In this story, Hallie, who is European American, meets two African American slave girls her own age, Susan and Margaret, who are seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad. They are trying to escape to earn enough money to buy their mother, whom their master had sold. When Hallie asks her Pa whether, hypothetically, he would help runaway slaves, he says that he doesn't like slavery, but he respects the law, and ultimately, his conclusion is to avoid meddling. But Hallie can't help wanting to understand more. She talks to Levi Coffin, whose family is hiding the girls. He is deeply respectful, and also encourages Hallie to think for herself. When slave catchers threaten her a second time as they throw rocks through the Coffin family's window, she lies to them to protect Susan and Margaret. Mr. Coffin thanks her, and her father, rather than criticizing her, acknowledges how strong-minded she is. Deeply impressed by Susan's and Margaret's courage, she takes them as role models, and feels satisfaction in having helped them. With beautiful collage-style illustrations, this story shows children that with courage, they can fight prejudice. Ages 6-9

Monday, January 13, 2014

Blackberry Stew by Isabell Monk

Illustrated by Janice Lee Porter. 32 p., Carolrhoda, 2005. Children might understand death as never again seeing the person who died. This is Hope's experience when her beloved Grandpa Jack dies. But on the day of his funeral, her wise Aunt Poogee stops making blackberry stew long enough to question this way of understanding it. She can close her eyes and see Grandpa Jack rocking Hope when she was a baby. Aunt Poogee continues sharing memories of Grandpa Jack, but Hope can't see him until her aunt reminds her of the time they went blackberry picking and met a snake. Aunt Poogee was afraid of the snake, and left. But Hope was able to use Grandpa Jack's encouragement to touch the snake. When Aunt Poogee made blackberry stew that night, it was "warm and gooey-good," and reminded Hope of how she felt with Grandpa Jack. Remembering, Hope understands that Grandpa Jack lives on in their memories of him, and is always with them when they tell stories about him - or eat blackberry stew. She had been afraid to go to the funeral before, but now she's ready; Grandpa Jack had shown her her own courage when they met the snake, and she has access to that courage now. She knows that when she says goodbye to Grandpa Jack, it's only temporary, until the next story. The book ends with the recipe for blackberry stew. Illustrated with warmly-colored oil paintings, this story offers comfort, support, and a genuinely uplifting perspective. Ages 4-8

Monday, January 6, 2014

Two Homes by Claire Masurel

Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 28 p., Candlewick Press, 2001. When your parents live apart, you have two homes. Such is the case for Alex, a small child who is sometimes with Daddy and sometimes with Mommy. Alex tells us about having two homes, two rooms, two favorite chairs, two kitchens, even two toothbrushes. Alex talks to each parent on the phone while at the other parent's, and friends come to play with Alex at both homes. Most important, Alex loves both parents, and both parents love Alex, no matter where they are and no matter Alex is. Illustrated with gentle watercolors, this story offers reassurance and a positive perspective to children of parents who are not together as a couple. Ages 3-6

About the Author

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Jacqueline Golding, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Pleasanton, California who works with children, teens, and adults. A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Golding earned her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Central Contra Costa County Child, Adolescent, and Family Mental Health Service in Concord, California. She holds an appointment as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco and has published over 100 articles in scientific and professional journals on topics such as trauma, depression, and cultural issues in mental health. Dr. Golding is represented by the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.

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